Farmer finds huge shell of glyptodon, an Ice Age armadillo


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Mother nature is capable of some incredible things. To this day, we’re still discovering fossils and other evidence that our planet has been producing spectacular wonders for billions of years.

So when one farmer in Argentina found what looked like a dinosaur egg, it wouldn’t have been altogether surprising if that was truly what it was. Yet the truth was utterly shocking.

Jose Antonio Nievas didn’t expect to make history when he decided to go for a walk around his family’s farm in Argentina on Christmas Day in 2015, but fate had other ideas.

12-argentina-armadilloYouTube / Ruptly TV

His farm is not in a particularly remote location, as Buenos Aires in just 25 miles north. Yet what Jose found did not appear to be from the world as we know it today.

13-argentina-armadilloYouTube / Ruptly TV

Jose came across what appeared to be a giant black egg near a riverbed. It was so massive and unusual, he rushed home to share the news with his family.

1-argentina-armadilloYouTube / Ruptly TV

“My husband went out to the car and when he came back he said, ‘Hey, I just found an egg that looks like it came from a dinosaur,’” said Jose’s wife, Reina Coronel, in an interview. “We all laughed because we thought it was a joke.”

It wasn’t clear at first just how big the object was, as it was entirely covered in mud. When Jose dug around it, its true size slowly revealed itself. At 3 feet wide, it was far too large to be a dinosaur egg… or any kind of egg at all.

2-argentina-armadilloYouTube / Ruptly TV

It was actually a kind of shell — or armor — of an animal that lived during the Ice Age and has since deceased.

3-argentina-armadilloYouTube / Ruptly TV

The shell belonged to a Glyptodon, part of a genus of the armadillo family. More than 10,000 years ago, the continent of South America was clamoring with these creatures which, according to fossil records, resembled a Volkswagen Beetle and weighed just as much, too.

4-argentina-armadilloYouTube / Ruptly TV

Amazingly, the shell that Jose found was in great condition, which is extremely rare for its age. Like fingerprints, no two Glyptodon shells are alike, and each has a special pattern.

6-argentina-armadilloCobalt123 / Flickr

Glyptodons were herbivores, so their armor helped protect them from predators. Fossils from the cousins of this species have been found in other parts of South America, including Uruguay and Brazil.

7-argentina-armadilloCobalt123 / Flickr

Each Glyptodon had an armored tail, too, which paleontologists believe is a sign that they fought each other. They were so powerful, they could crush their opponents’ shells.

8-argentina-armadilloCobalt123 / Flickr

Glyptodon shells are made out of roughly 1,000 bony plates. These animals had huge shoulders, stout legs, and a fused vertebrae to help them carry all that weight.

9-argentina-armadilloWikimedia Commons / Arent

Some compare Glyptodons to turtles, but experts say that this is merely coincidental. Still, even though both come from very different ancestry, they developed similar ways to adapt to their habitats. While Glyptodons couldn’t hide their heads in their shells like turtles, they had a sort of “helmet” in the form of a bone cap.

10-argentina-armadilloYouTube / Ruptly TV

The shell that Jose found was damaged, and experts wonder if this was caused by a battle with another Glyptodon.

11-argentina-armadilloYouTube / Ruptly TV

Despite its size, the shell is actually smaller than that of most Glyptodons. The species can grow up to six feet wide, so this one likely was a juvenile.

15-argentina-armadilloWikimedia Commons / Kevin Walsh

Some are skeptical of the legitimacy of the find, but several experts have confirmed that it is authentic. “It would be an ingenious hoaxer who would construct such a thing,” said Adrian Lister of the Natural History Museum in London in an interview.

16-argentina-armadilloWikimedia Commons / LadyofHats

The green part of the shell that Jose found may provide a hint as to how legitimate it is. Mud is eroded as water flows down the river, exposing the armor to the elements and discoloring the shell.

PENTAX ImageWikimedia Commons / Dellex

The hole in the shell still boggles scientists. There’s a different hole where the head would go, and another for the tail. It doesn’t look like this one was the result of any kind of fight, so it’s possible that this damage occurred recently.

5-argentina-armadilloYouTube / Ruptly TV

Unfortunately, without any glyptodons alive today, that’s about all we know. Glyptodons died out around 10,000 years ago at the end of the Ice Age, so the shell that Jose found likely perished around that time.

18-argentina-armadilloYouTube / Fernando Lopez Anido

Indeed, Jose’s find sounds like something out of a sci-fi story, but there are some fascinating real world implications.

19-argentina-armadilloWikimedia Commons / Richard Owen

This shell proves that, with so many years of history under the Earth’s belt, there is still plenty waiting to be discovered. 

20-argentina-armadilloWikimedia Commons / LadyofHats

So the next time you’re exploring the wilderness, keep your eyes peeled. You never know what you might find!

14-argentina-armadilloYouTube / Ruptly TV

It’s amazing that such a fascinating piece of history was discovered purely by chance. There’s no telling what extraordinary scientific revelation will be uncovered next!

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Farmer finds huge shell of glyptodon, an Ice Age armadillo

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